Decades ago, for many people the word autism conjured up images of a child, rocking slowly from side to side, in the corner of a room, never speaking or interacting but living in his or her own silent world.
Times have changed, and thanks to advancements in medicine and psychology, we know more about autism and its different forms in children, youths and adults, says Corey Walker. Walker is the coordinator of the Prince George branch of the Autism Society of B.C.
He is 36 years old, has a university degree and as an adult, was diagnosed as having Asperger’s, which is often described as a higher functioning form of autism.
“When I was young, I was diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Back then, parents often suspected something was wrong but it was believed that ‘if you talked you didn’t have autism.’ Now we know people with autism have different levels of functioning.”
Just as that kind of thinking was misguided, so too, says Walker, is the much debated and often still held belief that childhood inoculations cause autism.
“They have done numerous scientific studies into this and found no link to inoculations. Now measles is on the rise again – and the number of children getting inoculations is down,” said Walker.
“I’m not a doctor so I can’t talk about it from a medical perspective but I’ve read about the research. We’re learning more about autism all the time and, so far, the existing evidence suggests there is a strong genetic link. So if this (the belief it causes autism) is the only reason that some parents are not inoculating their children, I think that is a mistake.”
New scientific developments and discussing “in the news” issues surrounding autism are just another reason why people with various forms of adult autism should get together to share information, said Walker.
Services and education are key, he suggests.
An April 24 event at UNBC called Adult Autism Initiative: Lunch and Launch will include medical experts and guest speakers who have autism and will talk about their personal experiences as well as people who are in relationships with people who have adult autism.
“We want to bring together stakeholders like the Autism Society, UNBC, UBC, AimHi, Northern Health and others to create some momentum behind getting services for adults with autism. People with autism are under employed and we want to improve on that and offer more services,” said Walker.
There are services available for children who have autism and they can be diagnosed for free through Northern Health, says Walker, whereas adults with autism must pay for their own diagnosis (over $1,000) and there are only about three places in the province where it can be done.
Adults with very severe forms of autism can obtain much needed services locally, says Walker, but there’s a need for employment training and preparation, support and advocacy. On April 24, Walker is hoping that a meeting of the minds will change all that and improve the quality of life for adults with autism.
Registration has been extended to April 10.
“We’re trying to build a network of people from across northern B.C. to work together to drive change in the world of adult autism, where few services exist, as most services stop when you turn 18,” he said in a news release.
Open to adults with ASD (diagnosis is not required), parents, caregivers and professions, the event aims to create a group of concerned parents and others who will work together to drive change. There are 80 spaces available.
April 3 is World Autism Awareness Day, the month of April is Autism Awareness Month. The Adult Autism Initiative: Lunch and Launch is on Friday, April 24 at The Gathering Place, University of Northern British Columbia, Room 5-123.